Confession: I am supposedly unschooling, but I sneak math workbooks. Not because I think the kids are craving them. I do it because my six-year-old is doing fourth grade math and if I give him workbooks for a few months, he’ll get to fifth grade. It blows me away. He’s impressive. I like telling people. I like telling people too much. It’s messed up. I wish I didn’t care.

I have a family of gifted learners, and tons of us have Asperger’s. Which means we do exceptionally well at some things, like, for example, getting into Harvard, and very poorly at other things, for example, staying out of jail. (Side note: mental illness and innovative thinking are often linked.) So I am aware that IQ is not everything. And, in fact, I fought very hard to get my older son, who has both Asperger’s and an extremely high WISC  score, to get an IEP as soon as possible by arguing that IQ is irrelevant when determining if someone qualifies for special edudcation. Read more

Last week I posted about what a day in my life is like. It’s crazy. It’s not like any day anyone would want to have, if they had a choice. And I’m working on changing it. For example I took a trip to LA with the kids, so I could get some time to think.

But I was stunned by how many people told me that I wasn’t suited to be home with kids. Or how many people say that homeschooling isn’t right for everyone—as if some people just don’t have it in them to do what’s best for their kids.

Would you say that about work? Like, “Oh, you are just not a person who should be supporting herself financially.”

Have you ever taken a personality test? I love this type of test. Here’s a fast, free one:
Read more

I’m pretty sure the reason more people don’t homeschool is because it’s so, so hard. And my situation is no exception. I am the primary breadwinner, we live 90 minutes from a city, and I am much better suited for the relatively predictable world of  business than taking care of children.

I started this blog to simply explore the idea of homeschooling. But it took only a few weeks of reading and writing on the topic to see that research and analysis point overwhelmingly to the idea that homseschooling is more effective than even the “best” public schools. I do homeschooling because it’s so clearly the right thing to do. Now, I just have to get good at it.

7:00 am Chores. We are going to kill one of the goats today. It is the luckiest goat in the world. He was going to freeze to death (with all the other baby boy goats) but I took him as my own project instead. And then I told my son he could raise the goat and sell it for meat. Then we fell in love with the goat. So he lived way past when he was big enough to eat. Goats follow kids like dogs. This goat’s hooves grew so long he couldn’t walk. We had to either start grooming him or kill him. So it’s back to business with the goat. This is the last morning of feeding Snowflake, so we all go out together.

While kids do chores I send emails. Anything that I need to get done today must get done now. In this half-hour. I have a list of emails I have to write. One to a venture capitalist looking at my next business to maybe fund it. One to my perspective business partner to tell her I don’t want to be partners. One to my friend Melissa, to tell her I think I will die trying to do a new business and maintain the life I have now. I cook breakfast while I do emails. I burn stuff. Every time.

Read more

This is a guest post from Kate Fridkis, whose family did homeschooling when she was growing up. She blogs about body image at Eat the Damn Cake and she blogs about homeschooling at Skipping School. The photo is Kate as a girl.

Adults are afraid that kids will fail at life if they don’t learn all of the basics. And adults believe that the basics are things like math, rather than subjects that naturally center around a kid’s interests.

My parents believed that their kids should get the chance to find out what they were really interested in, and to take a lot of time finding it out. But letting their kids do that wasn’t always easy, because my parents had gone to school themselves. So my parents were scared.

At her best, my mother didn’t try to structure our education. When she was bravest, we read all day. Or played outside all day. Or we read all morning and then played outside all afternoon. We were totally unpredictable;  we were experimenting and our lives themselves were utterly experimental. There were a lot of those days.

And then there were a lot of days when it seemed like she was nervous, and she asked, “What have you accomplished?” which meant that I should make sure I did something that looked a little more like traditional school. Math, for example. From a textbook.

I fake-learned when I had a textbook, and I really learned when I was reading, or playing outside, or writing a book, or starting a little business.

I already knew what was interesting. Homeschooled kids already know.

Recently CNN announced that the cost of raising kids has increased 40% in the last ten years. But if you look closely, the increase is largely because the cost of child care has gone up. This week’s Economist shows that on average, childcare is consuming 68% of the second parent’s income.

As a kid who was put into daycare in the early 70s, I have a clear view of why the cost of child care has gone up: It totally sucked when it started.

My mom was one of the first women to go to work during the reign of feminism. The photo here is what she looked like at home. But this is what she looked like at the Fortune 100 company that offered her a job: she had to bring a note to work saying that her husband gave her permission to take a full-time job.

While my mom was working as a COBOL programmer (she hit paydirt with Y2K drama , but that came later) my younger brother and I were at a daycare center that, in hindsight, specialized in children whose mother had died and whose father did not remarry fast enough to get someone to take care of them.

I am not going to delve into how bad the care was, both emotionally and physically, but my brother and I can’t even talk about the experience without feeling physical effects, like back pain or neck pain.

So it’s no surprise to me that child care costs have increased. We ask more of child care facilities today, and, of course, there are more regulations. We know that for kids from birth to three, it’s very clear that there should be a single caregiver  so if you can’t do that, buying one, in your home, is expensive.

I think the cost is going to go through the roof, though, when people stop using school as child care. Ten years from now, when homeschooling is ubiquitous, that 40% increase in child care costs will seem like a bargain.

I promised myself that I would stop going to the Lego store as a form of entertainment. There is no difference between using video games to take care of the kids and shopping to take care of the kids, except that while both are evil, video games don’t cost money every time we turn to them.

But the Lego store was right there, and I had a brainstorm to buy Lego projects the kids could do next to me while I get a pedicure.

While I was deciding if this idea innovative homeschooling or simply selfishness I realized that I think the two possibilities are actually opposites of each other. And since they are opposites, how will I ever take care of myself again until the boys go to college?

That’s when I spotted the wall of Legos. You can buy endless amounts of Legos in single colors. I imagined my interior design self with a blue shelf made of Legos, a yellow picture frame made of Legos, and I could see replacing our wood ceiling molding with Lego molding. I made extravagant Lego purchases for all three of use, and I told myself we are a homeschooling family growing creatively, together.

After less than a week of homeschooling I am so excited to have a day to myself that I could cry. I’m spending my days teaching my kids to be independent thinkers while I do not have enough headspace to have thoughts of my own. I miss the wide, expansive thoughts I had in cubicles. I miss the constant worry that I was not spending my days doing things that matter.

My son has been having hour-long cello lessons for the last year. His new teacher wants him to do half-hour lessons. She says a cellist must learn to approach the craft with focus and intensity. She says he first needs to learn to sustain it for a half-hour. I want that approach for everything he does, and for everything I do, too. But I can’t help thinking that we could sidestep the labors toward intensity by popping an Adderall before the lesson.

When I brought my first baby home from the hospital, I thought, “Now what? What do we do now?”

And that feeling has never completely disappeared.

I still worry that when I have uninterrupted time to be with the kids, I just sit with them. I’m not sure what to do.

Now if I feel like when I’m at a loss, I can assign them homework.

I’ve been doing homeschool math experiments all summer with my older son. I started division in April, when I realized it’s a third-grade topic that his third-grade classroom was not going to get to. At this point, we’ve been doing long division for six months and he still can’t do it.

I’ve sat next to him for every long division problem. We used Kumon, and School Zone and random downloads. Nothing works. Today I slammed my hand on the desk and said, “Focus on what you’re doing! You just did this yesterday!”

I broke a lot of blood vessels in my fingers. Not all of them, but just enough so that all day I have this bruised feeling on my hand.

This seems like a good time to tell you that my first job out of college was at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. I was an arbitrage clerk and I used hand signals to tell traders on phones what prices were trading in the open-outcry pits. I did not get the job for any skill; traders in the pit wanted someone good to look at.

So I flashed numbers with my fingers for about three months, and then the Berlin Wall came down. The markets went up and down so fast and I couldn’t remember if numbers were higher or lower than previous numbers.

That day I was fired, and that day I realized that I had a disability. People who struck me as uneducated and stupid were able to keep track of what numbers meant in a market going up and down.

Today my son did the same long-division routine over and over again and he could not see he was learning a system to solve a problem. And everything came back to me. My own math gap, the Wall falling, and the teachers who told me I wasn’t trying my hardest and left me bruised.